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Plant Native Shrubs Instead of Invasive Species: A List of Both Types

Updated on October 20, 2011

Invasive Rose of Sharon


List of Native and Non-Native Shrubs

Strolling through my New York City neighborhood I get to enjoy the beautiful Rose of Sharon flowering shrub - one is right outside my window. I also had this pleasure when I strolled through my neighborhood in Seoul, S. Korea during the years I worked there. I remember thinking 'Seoul has the same flower we have back home.' But, how can both cities, more than 6,000 miles apart, have this same flower?

The Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus) is native to Asia and is the national flower of S. Korea - where it is known as the mugunghwa. However, it is an invasive species here in North America, having been introduced right before the 1600s, according to the Floridata website. (see photo below for the Rose of Sharon flower)

In fact many of the shrubs we have planted here are invasive.

What are invasive species and what are native species?

The U.S. government defines an invasive species, in this case shrubs, as plants not native to the ecosystem being considered. Additionally, by introducing non-native species, these plants can cause, or are likely to cause harm that is economic, environmental, as well as harmful to human health.

Native species, however, occur naturally in a particular ecosystem. In this case the shrub (or tree or plant) originated there without human help. Bear in mind, that plants growing in one part of the U.S. can be considered invasive in another part. This is because different regions of the U.S. are at different elevations, have different soil types and also different weather patterns.

How did invasive shrubs get into the U.S.?

Invasive plants are not an accident; they were brought here intentionally, according to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Additionally, about half of the most damaging invasive plants degrading natural habitats throughout the U.S., were brought here for horticultural purposes. Many are still being sold for quick growth and erosion control or simply to look beautiful in the landscape.

Highway departments in the U.S. have often sought quick growing invasive plants in order to establish rapidly growing ground cover, especially where the grounds slope.

What kind of damage is caused by invasive shrubs?

When invasive shrubs are planted in a new ecosystem, they may displace native plants by growing faster, taller, wider and then creating a shade cover over native species. This can disrupt the nutrient cycle of native plants. The results can have a devasting effect on food and homes for animals - which too often we forget about.

In dollars and cents, such damage caused by the use of invasive plants costs about $120 billion dollars each year. About 42 percent of threatened species on the U.S. List of Endangered and Threatened Species are now there because of nonnative species. (See link below explaining how animals are placed on the endangered species list).

Invasive shrubs can be hard to maintain and also hard to eliminate. Prevention is the best solution.

How can I easily tell if a shrub is native or non native/invasive?

An easy way to tell is by the name. The place of origin is sometimes part of the name. For example, the American Yew and Texas Ranger are native shrubs. The Japanese Barberry and English Hawthorn are not native, as the names indicates.

To provide food for wildlife (other than people) and for more information about native and invasive shrubs, see the lists below:

List of Native Shrubs

Alabama Snow-Wreath

American Beautyberry

American Snowbell

American Yew

Carolina Buckthorn (use in wildlife plantings)

Carolina Cherry Laurel

Florida Leucothoe

New Jersey Tea

Texas Ranger

Virginia Sweetspire

More Native Shrubs in Alphabetical Order

Antelope Brush

Apache Plume




Black Chokeberry

Black Haw

Bottle-Brush Buckeye

Bush Honeysuckle (avoid the other honeysuckles on the invasive list)

Button Bush

Climbing Hydrangea/Wood Vamp (hydrangeas also have health benefits - see link below)

Climbing Prairie Rose

Clove Currant

Cock-Spur Hawthorn

Coral Bean


Creeping Blueberry

Desert Olive (attracts wildlife)

Desert Willow


Fragrant Sumac

Gray Dogwood

Groundsel Tree

Hairy Manzanita

Highbush Blueberry (is a native food plant)

Highbush Cranberry (is edible and can be planted instead of the European Cranberry Bush)

Honey Mesquite

Indian Plum



Mountain Holly

Mountain Spirea


Oakleaf Hydrangea (hydrangeas also have health benefits - see link below)

Pinemat Manzanita

Red Chokeberry (attracts birds)

Red Osier Dogwood


Rose Spirea

Rubber Rabbitbrush

Scarlet Elder (useful in wildlife borders)

Scarlet Mallow

Shiny-Leaf Meadowsweet

Silk Bay

Silky Willow

Silverberry (provides food for wildlife)

Silver Buffaloberry (birds and other animals like these berries)

Smooth Witherod


Southern Wax Myrtle


Sweet Pepperbush/Summersweet

Toyon (attracts wildlife)

Tree Anemone/Carpenteria

Tree Lupine



Western Sweetshrub

Wild Coffee

Wild Lilac/Blue Blossom

Winged Sumac

Winterberry (provides food for birds and other wildlife)

Witch Alder

Witch Hazel



Avoid These Invasive Shrubs

Brazilian Pepper Tree

English Hawthorn

European Cranberry Bush (plant the edible Highbush Cranberry instead)

Japanese Barberry

Japanese Spirea

Japanese Yew (replace with American Yew)

Russian Olive

Scotch Broom

Siberian Pea Shrub

More Invasive Shrubs in Alphabetical Order

Autumn Olive

Beach Naupaka


Butterfly Bush

Chaste Tree


Edible Fig

Euonymus (Fortune's, Winged)

Heavenly Bamboo

Honeysuckle (Amur, Dwarf, Morrow's, Tartarian) - These familiar plants have invaded most of North America. Be sure to look for the Bush Honeysuckle, listed on the native list above.



Multiflora Rose/Beach Rose


Privets (often used as hedges - there are seven types)

Rose of Sharon (has invaded New York through to Missouri, down south to Texas and Georgia, as well as Utah)

Shoebutton Ardisia

Tall Hedge Buckthorn


Viburnum (Double-FIle, Linden, Siebold, Tea)

Wayfaring Tree

For more information about native and invasive trees and vines, see links below.


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    • BkCreative profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City

      Thanks Ann. I used the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens (nearby) as a source as well as others listed here in the article. There is so much conflicting information out there so your comment gives other perspectives that we must take into account.

      I'll go along with the gov websites if they are current but not a seller like burpees or the BBG Handbook which is over 16 years old - information changes. Most people when shopping do not ask for the scientific name and even if we do they may be different in another country such as the Rose of Sharon.

      Thanks for taking the time to share all this information which for some can be used as a resource.

    • profile image

      Ann H Csonka 

      7 years ago

      BkCreative: Your article is well-written and easy to read, which is obviously good and I rated it up for that reason.


      (1) a minor "bone to pick" -- it is really helpful to list the scientific name of each species, along with the common names, because there are so many variations in naming.

      (2) a MAJOR FLAW. how in the world did you happen to write: "There is one honeysuckle that is native - the Bush Honeysuckle. Native range is..." This is c-r-a-p! There are at least 6 invasive exotic bush honeysuckle species and we have never heard of one native bush honeysuckle. Tell me the scientific name of your native bush H. species and I'll plant it!

      SEE: ... and ...

      This listing is egregious enough that you really should go back and EDIT IT--LISTING CORRECTLY.

      - For a quick overview of native and invasive non-native honeysuckles, look at ...

      - For pix of the invasives:

      Also see:

      BBG Handbook #149, Winter 1996 -- pages 60-61

      NATIVE honeysuckles are in the coral honeysuckle group.



      NOTE: links are not complete due to site rules. Please persist.

      Sorry to be harsh, but you already recognized that the exotic honeysuckles are real plagues on our lands and landscapes!

      Ann, Nature's Web, Herndon VA

    • BkCreative profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City

      Truly CountryCityWoman. I wonder if names were changed to trick us. Now that I am aware of rose of sharon - I see it everywhere.

    • CountryCityWoman profile image


      7 years ago from From New York City to North Carolina

      We have the rose of sharon all over my Brooklyn neighborhood. For sure I will do far more research before I do any planting. So many plants have their names changed to English words but it does not make them native - and tends to fool us.

      Thanks for this vital information! Rated up!

    • BkCreative profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City

      You're welcome Hello,hello. Thanks for commenting!

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 

      7 years ago from London, UK

      A very comprehensive and nformative hub. Thank you.

    • BkCreative profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City

      I do like the idea of putting together a native garden/landscape and I look forward to doing that too. Thanks for writing TheListLady!

    • TheListLady profile image


      8 years ago from New York City

      Love this list. There are so many to choose from. I cannot wait to get started on my new property. Only the best! Yay! Rated way up and more!

    • BkCreative profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City

      Of course drbj first thing I did was...try to say it fast!

      I'm learning my shrubs (and other plants) because I live near the Brooklyn Botanic Garden and use one of their fantastic publications. They are very much into invasive and non-invasive species. It's a great place to stroll through!

    • drbj profile image

      drbj and sherry 

      8 years ago from south Florida

      Bk - You do know your shrubs, m'dear. Thanks for the list of invasive and non-invasive types. Now I am no longer as invasive-shrub-challenged. (Try to say that fast!)

    • BkCreative profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City

      There is one honeysuckle that is native - the Bush Honeysuckle. Native range is through open deciduous or mixed woods with conifers, as well as roadsides and rocky slopes from as far as Newfoundland and down south to Virginia, Minnesota and to Tennessee. So maybe you met this honeysuckle PWalker281. I'm beginning to think now after what you said - because the plants are just everywhere - that's a sign of them being invasive. And the honeysuckles on the invasive list has invaded every part of North America.

      Thanks for the rating!

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      The honeysuckle is an invasive species? Oh my goodness, we used to suck on the flower for the nectar when we were kids in the 50s and 60s. They were everywhere. Just goes to show, it's often hard to tell what's native and what's invasive because many of the invasive plants are so common. Thanks for the lists BKC! Rated up and useful.


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